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Hod O'Brien On Piano Jazz

Hod O'Brien.
Courtesy of the artist
Hod O'Brien.

On the drive from his home in Charlottesville, Va., to the Manhattan studios of Piano Jazz, pianist Hod O'Brien was inspired to compose an original tune in honor of the occasion. By the time he'd arrived, he'd worked out a swinging little ditty in his head, so he kicked off this session with a tune he called "Clarion for Marian."

"His playing was wonderful," recalls host Marian McPartland. "And I really enjoyed playing on Charlie Parker ['Now's The Time'] with Hod. I thought it came off very well."

O'Brien's arrival on the New York Jazz scene in the late 1950s was marked by similar zeal. Lured by the sounds of bebop, O'Brien had made his way from the Connecticut Berkshires to Manhattan's 52nd Street, where he got his first big gig backing Oscar Pettiford. O'Brien describes the after-hours "loft scene," where he was discovered jamming alongside such greats as Stan Getz and Kenny Burrell. He also recalls his experiences at the summer music series at the Music Inn — or, as O'Brien calls it, "the 52nd Street of the Berkshires."

O'Brien and McPartland share a love of Cole Porter, and each take their turn at a Porter tune: McPartland plays the ballad "Every Time We Say Goodbye," while O'Brien performs the lesser-known "I've Still Got My Health," a tune he learned from his wife, singer Stephanie Nakasian. O'Brien shows off his chops and pays homage to his stylistic forefather, Bud Powell, on his final solo, "Un Poco Loco."

Originally recorded Sept. 10, 2008.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Lyon